In many ways, Dominic Raiola represents the end (or at least temporary suspension) of an era for Nebraska football. Nebraska has become Kicker U when just over a decade ago, the Huskers churned out NFL linemen (plural) on a yearly basis.
Even if the Big Red restores the Pipeline to its former glory, Raiola remains one of its most unique parts to this day.
He was drafted 14 years ago by the Detroit Lions with pick No. 50, one of the highest selections of any Husker offensive lineman. He’s not only stuck by his team, but it seems like he just won’t go away. The modern day version of former Nebraska great Will Shields, if you will.
Frankly, the Lions’ center is one of the few reliable parts of a mind-bogglingly frustrating franchise.
Shields, a sure-fire Hall of Fame pick down the line, enjoyed a 13-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs. The guy played in 224 games. He started in 223. Raiola returns for season No. 13 with 204 starts to his credit. Assuming the Lions don’t make the playoffs (I know, but let’s pretend for a moment), he’ll end the season with 220.
Will he come back for No. 14? He certainly has nothing to prove. Raiola was signed to a one-year deal, and if the Lions tank, it may be time to call it a career. If Detroit gets close to the postseason, something he’s been a part of all of once, he may return to bust Shields’ legendary attendance tally.
Like any good offensive lineman, we probably won’t hear his name unless something significant happens such as another contract signing or a bittersweet retirement.
Regardless, he’s an icon of what Nebraska football was and could be again. A plethora of offensive line talent is starting to funnel its way into Lincoln. Is the next Raiola among them? From an even greedier standpoint, maybe there’s a name that can be put next to his in the annals of Husker lore.
The Big Red could only be so lucky.